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*International Space Station Status Report #06-25*
*3:30 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 19, 2006*
*Expedition 13 Crew*

In space this week, a satellite flew within a satellite. International 
Space Station Flight Engineer Jeff Williams "piloted" a unique 
spacecraft in three dimensions for the first time around the pressurized 
Destiny module. The demonstration tested the basics of formation flight 
and autonomous docking that could be useful in multiple spacecraft 
formation flying in the future.

That test flight culminated a week of experiment activity, maintenance, 
spacewalk preparations and packing of equipment slated for return to 
Earth aboard Space Shuttle Discovery following its next mission to the 
station. The shuttle's launch is targeted for July.

Along with Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, Williams oversaw 
activities through the 50th day of their planned 180-day voyage aboard 
the station focusing on laboratory science experiments in the 
microgravity science glovebox. That facility hosted the final sample for 
the Pore Formation and Mobility Investigation experiment. This 
experiment uses a transparent modeling material to study how bubbles 
form and migrate during liquid solidification. This is important to 
understanding the formation of flaws in molten metals as they solidify.

Much of the attention, however, focused on a new experiment flying for 
the first time on the station called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, 
Re-orient Experimental Satellites, also known as SPHERES.

Williams, also NASA's station science officer, performed a series of 
test flights with the first of what eventually will be a constellation 
of three small free-flying satellites designed to demonstrate the basics 
of formation flight and autonomous docking.

For the first tests, only one satellite and two beacons - one mounted 
and one hand-held - were used. The satellite is eight inches in diameter 
and has a mass of about seven pounds. It also contains internal 
avionics, software and communications systems and is maneuvered using 
compressed carbon dioxide gas thrusters.

Performed autonomously in Destiny, the first test flight consisted of a 
series of 10-15 pre-planned maneuvers each lasting up to 10 minutes. 
After Williams selected and loaded the appropriate software on the 
laptop, the satellite began its pre-programmed maneuvers to test 
attitude control, station keeping, re-targeting, collision avoidance and 
fuel balancing.

This technology is of interest in designing constellation and array 
spacecraft configurations and also could be used for free-flying robotic 
assistants, capable of helping astronauts on future spacewalks.

NASA's payload operations team at the agency's Marshall Space Flight 
Center, Huntsville, Ala., coordinates U.S. science activities on the 

On the maintenance front, Vinogradov this week reconfigured ventilation 
lines associated with the Elektron oxygen generating system in the 
Zvezda module in preparation for a June 1 spacewalk. One of the 
spacewalk tasks will be to install a new external hydrogen vent line for 
the Elektron. Oxygen is being provided via storage tanks in the Progress 
supply vehicle. The Elektron will remain deactivated until after the 

Early in the week, the carbon dioxide removal system, known as Vozdukh, 
in the Russian segment malfunctioned. Flight controllers activated the 
carbon dioxide removal system in Destiny until troubleshooting restored 
Vozdukh's operation. Both units will run in tandem until next week when 
a new gas analyzer is installed in Vozdukh.

On Thursday, the crew talked with school students in Wisconsin's Winter 
School District about life in space and experiments aboard the station.

The next station status report will be issued on Friday, May 26, or 
earlier if events warrant. For more about the crew's activities and 
station sighting opportunities, visit:

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